Lee May(e)

I am a manager in two draft leagues that use the current baseball season.  This has been a busy two weeks of draft prep and execution.  Both are keeper leagues, where you retain the players you want from last year and then draft a fresh group to fill out the roster.  

The CBA is my main passion, a result of a long association dating back almost as far as my move to Des Moines in 1993.  Back then the commish was Larry Barrett, who shared my love of both wargames and baseball.  Thanks to him, I got back into Strat after being away from the game for over ten years!  It has little to do with 1968, but here is a link to my draft recap.  I absolutely love the decision-making and strategizing over each and every pick!

For whatever reason, the draft in my second league, RUMBA, never seems quite as rewarding.  There are two critical differences.  First, RUMBA does not allow any minor leaguers to be drafted, which makes it harder to implement a long-term strategy in which future needs are anticipated.  Also, its deeper 45-man roster (five more than the CBA) means you need to reach further for selections after the first few rounds.  I still enjoy the process, but don’t feel very connected to this league even though I’ve been one of the twenty owners for a few years now.  Here are my notes from that draft.

One thing I noticed during the RUMBA draft was that I had a lot of players (4) named Tyler.  It isnt an unusual name in todays world, but out of curiosity I checked the web and found the very first instance of a MLB player of that name was in the 1990s.  Names have always been part of the fun of baseball, especially the draft leagues.  I have fondly recall Keith Neill trying to collect Smiths back in the days of Ozzie and Lonnie, and of a fortunate day when I drafted Octavio Dotel because of its melodious quality that was lacking in the alternate players name. When offered a choice of Travis Shaw or Yangervis Solarte a few years back, I think you can guess which guy I took in the deal.

Given all this, it comes as no great surprize that I took great pleasure when the melding of the Reds and Indians, forming the IBCs Sioux City Crusaders, put Lee May (.290/22/80) and Lee Maye (.281/4/26) on the same club.  Of the two, the star was the firstbaseman, May, in 1968 playing in just his second full season; soon he would be a 3-time all-star with the Reds and the Astros.  Maye, then 33, was type-cast in supporting roles  he did hit .300 a few times, but never cracked enough homers to play the lead.  He did have an interesting side-career as a singer, and I think its informative that the Baseball Reference site lists his top three comparables as Ken Landreaux, Cleon Jones, and Johnny Grubb.  He was both colorful and good!

Lee Maye

The 1968 Crusaders feature the young nucleus of what would be known as The Big Red Machine, a good thing since the Indians dont seem to add a whole lot as far as hitting is concerned.  A notable exception is behind the plate, where the 20-yo rookie Johnny Bench (.275/15/82) has some serious competition in Joe Azcue (.280/4/42) and Duke Sims (.249/11/44 and 62 walks).  In the early going, Bench is scuffling with just a .199 average, so Azcue (currently at .310) has been winning more and more playing time.

Lee May is at first on most days, so 23-yo Tony Horton (.249/14/59) is just getting scraps.  It is always interesting to see Hal picking Horton to start at DH, and while I tend to think there are better options, he has been getting about half the starts in that slot.

The keystone combo has typically featured Tommy Helms (.288/2/47) at second, where his superior 2 glove has kept a speedy rookie, 24-yo Dave Nelson (.233/0/19 and 23 steals), in a reserve role.  Shortstop is the teams major sore spot, with Larry Brown (.234/6/35) and Leo Cardenas (.235/7/41) both about equally bad.  They do make sense as a platoon, however, given their balance ratings of 1R and 5L.

At the hot corner are Tony Perez (.282/18/92) and Max Alvis (.223/8/37).  Max had been a pretty good player (a 2-time All Star!) a few years earlier, but perhaps due to the lingering effects of a bout with spinal meningitis his stats tumbled once he turned thirty.

For average, this is a fine outfield.  In RF is the batting champ, Pete Rose (.335/10/49), a 1 glove.  Center is a L/R platoon of Vada Pinson (.271/5/48 and 17 steals) and 24-yo Jose Cardenal (.257/7/44 and 40 steals), both of who are also solid defenders, but the LF tandem is better suited for DH duty: Alex Johnson (.312/2/58 and 16 steals) and Lee Maye, both 4s afield.  Mack Jones (.252/10/34) is just a part-timer, but is the only outfielder on the roster with double-digits in dingers.  This team could really use left-handed slugger in LF to complement the corner infielders, May and Perez.

Below are the historical ballpark ratings for the Indians and Reds (note all IBC parks are 9’s across the board).  The pitchers should benefit greatly from the change to a neutral park.  Old Muncipal Stadium in Cleveland was one weird park for righty hitters!

Ballpark Effect     Cleveland    Cincinnati
Lefty Singles         12           15  
Righty Singles         1           15
Lefty Homers          11           19
Righty Homers         14           10

A few hitters with the sorting requirement of 360+ ABs and/or a WAR of 0.5+ didn’t make Sioux City's 30-man roster.  Three were outfielders that didnt have enough pop: Tommy Harper (.217/6/26), 33-yo Lou Johnson (.257/5/23), and 34-yo Russ Snyder (.241/3/28).  A bit more interesting was 24-yo Vern Fuller (.242/0/18), but my nod for Helms backup went to Nelson (a better pinch-runner).

Here is a link to the Strat-O-Matic league file after 9 weeks of play, and the current standings.  Council Bluffs continues to have a comfortable lead.


6/09/68 Iowa Baseball Confederacy        Won   Lost    Pct     GB
Council Bluffs Falcons (A’s-Giants)      41     19    .683     —
Davenport Knights (Tigers-Cards)         32     24    .571    7.0
Ames Little Cyclones (Orioles-Pirates)   32     26    .552    8.0
Iowa City Regals (Red Sox-Phillies)      30     27    .526    9.5
Cedar Rapids Saints (Twins-Dodgers)      29     28    .509   10.5
Sioux City Crusaders (Indians-Reds)      30     29    .508   10.5
Waterloo Sailors (White Sox-Braves)      26     32    .448   14.0
Des Moines Scarlets (Yankees-Cubs)       25     35    .417   16.0
West Metro Maroons (Angels-Mets)         24     36    .400   17.0
Dubuque Golden Eagles (Senators-Astros)  23     36    .390   17.5

I’ll cover the Sioux City Crusaders pitchers next time!

© John Kisner 2019